Saturday, August 27, 2016

Act Two, Scene Eleven - "Braiding in the Dark"

This post is part of my on-going story that I have been telling through this blog.  If you are just coming here for the first time or if you need to catch up, you can catch the earlier parts of the story in Setting the Stage or Act One.  See the navigation panel to the right labeled My Story.  I hope that my sharing of my story is helpful, encouraging, informative, or at least entertaining for you. Thanks!

The trip to Uganda also set the stage for something else.  Two of the missionaries from my church were a couple of young men, Steven and Dane. Not their real names. Pseudonyms are used throughout this blog.  Being from the same church, we, of course, knew each other prior to the trip.  I would even say that we were friends, but we got much closer during and following the trip. 

One of the experiences that acted as a catalyst for us getting closer was when Dane, who had long hair at the time, decided that he would like to get his hair braided into dreadlocks while we were in Africa.  He had even been talking to one of the maids at the hotel in which we were staying who said that she knew a place where he could get it done.  So, Dane and Steven began planning to go out with the maid one evening to get this done.  Many of the others on the trip were not comfortable with this, including Steven’s mother who was also on the trip.  She didn’t think that they should go off by themselves in a strange country with someone that they barely knew. 

Steven and Dane began seeking someone older to go with them.  They were both adults at the time, but they were very young, 18 or 19, I believe.  Anyway, they approached me.  I have always been the kind of person to say that, “If there is something you want to do, do it, especially if you are in a place that you many never make it back to.  So, after a bit of consideration, I agreed to accompany them.  In retrospect, this was probably not the wisest decision, but all worked out in the end.

Our guide, the hotel maid, met us at the front desk of the hotel on the night that we were to go.  She led us out to the street, and we all jumped into a taxi, essentially a small van that was already packed with multiple passengers.  The van drove us and dropped us off on the side of a street.  It was dark.  There were some fires burning in barrels on the side of the street, and a few venders who appeared to be selling cooked meat on the side of the streets. 

Our guide quickly led us down the street and into a very crowded salon.  As soon as we walked in, we heard someone say, “Mzungu,” and many of the people in the salon snickered or outright laughed.  Mzungu was one of the few Swahili words that I knew, and it simply meant white person.  So, it was clear that we stood out in the crowded room off all brown faces.  We sat and waited for a while.  Some of the other patrons spoke to us and asked us why we were in Uganda.  It was interesting that, at the mention of the church that was hosting us, Kampala Pentecostal Church or Watoto, the specific ministry we were there working as a part of, we were immediately given an extra level of deference. 

In the past, I have used this as an example of me feeling what it is to be a racial minority.  The current me realizes how incredibly ignorant that was.  If anything, this experience was an amplified experience of white privilege.  Despite the use of the use of the word Mzungu and the initial snickering, we were immediately pegged as white, male, American, and Christian, each label granting us a higher level of privilege and respect as it was identified and placed upon us.

At some point, while Dane’s hair was being braided, the power went out in the salon.  That brought the braiding momentarily to a halt.  The braiding resumed once enough candles had been brought in to allow the work to continue.  The whole process took far longer than any of us realized it would.  It was about 2:00 AM before it was finished.  Our hotel maid guide led us back to the street and into another cab.  It was going to be a short night as this took place during the first leg of our trip before we had left the city to go on safari. I apologize for this slightly out-of-order chronology.  We were expected to go to church the next morning.

I was in some hot water the next morning. My pastor’s son, Marc, who was also on the trip made sure that I knew that his father was not pleased with me.  He said that his father was up worrying about us all night, and he also told me that his father would be having words with me about it.  That weighed on my mind throughout that day and the church service.  I avoided Pastor Rob until we were leaving to go on safari.  That’s another reason that I was so happy for that time of laughter in the back of the bus with him because that let me know that he had either let go of his anger towards me or that Marc had been exaggerating the extent of it.

Steven and Dane will be key players in my next post; so, I felt the need to give them a bit of an introduction and give a glimpse into the nature and dynamic of our friendship.  Thank you for reading up to this point.  I apologize that I have, yet again, taken some time off from writing.  I had sinus surgery a couple of weeks ago, and that threw me off a bit, but I hope to get back on track.  I am also considering doing Act Three as an e-book.  I’m wondering what your thoughts, Faithful Reader, would be on that.  If I do so, I would allow a time for those who are followers of this blog to obtain it either for free or for an extremely discounted price prior to promoting it more widely.  I’m sharing this now for a few reasons.  First, I don’t want you to feel like you got tricked when we get to that point.  Second, by putting it out here, it means I have to finish writing it.  Third, I want you to know that I value you being a part of my community by reading this blog and supporting my voice.

~ Culbs

Twitter: @culbs1138

Also, I am going to be co-hosting a podcast that will be available for you to listen to soon.  That has also been consuming some of my energy and attention.  Please look for updates on that at

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